Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category

Provocation to Prayer, Part 36

April 18, 2010

The following quote is taken from John MacArthur’s Ashamed of the Gospel:

“Many of those who remained true to the faith were nevertheless reluctant to fight for what they believed in. Evangelical preaching was often cold and lifeless, and even those who held to sound doctrine were careless about where they drew the line in their associations with others: “Those who were really orthodox in their sentiments were too often lax and unfaithful as to the introduction of heretical ministers into their pulpits, either as assistants or occasional preachers. In this way…heresies were introduced…Within only a few decades, the Puritan fervor that had so captured the soul of England gave way to dry, listless apostate teaching. Churches became lax in granting membership privileges to the unregenerate. People who were, in Shindler’s words, “strangers to the work of renewing grace” nevertheless claimed to be Christians and were admitted to membership-even leadership…These people “chose them pastors after their own hearts, men who could, and would, and did, cry ‘Peace, peace,’ when the only way of peace was ignored or denied.”

The above quote is built around a man who wrote at the time of Spurgeon and the Down-Grade Controversy. As these were the things happening sometime after revival happened and reflect churches on the way down, a look at them may be helpful in order to focus on the things that need to happen. Without any question Spurgeon thought that the Down-Grade was a deadly serious business. In fact, the struggle over it and the surrounding troubles most likely brought on his death. The issue, however, is not just what happened in history, but what is happening now. When Spurgeon withdrew from the Baptist Union, things were not as bad as now. He was appalled at what he was hearing, but they were not as bad then as now. “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints” (Eph 6:18). Revival is a many-faceted issue, but we must be alert and start to pray. We all live in a nation and professing Church which are on the down-grade. We cannot get away from this fact. But we must know that we should also pray in terms of these things. There are many points from the past that need our present attention from the quote above. Some are:

1. Careless about the truth and so reluctant to fight for the truth
2. Careless to allow or have come from us cold and lifeless preaching
3. Careless about our associations with others
4. Careless about letting people who are not sound in theology preach and teach
5. Careless in attitude about admitting unregenerate people into membership
6. Careless about admitting unregenerate men into the leadership of churches and even the pastorate
7. Careless to have men who cry “peace, peace” while they ignore the only true way of peace

We must begin to be more alert as to those around us and pray. We must pray that we will begin to love the truth so much that we are willing to fight for it. Scripture tells us to “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3). It is sin to be careless about the truth and not fight for it. We must pray for the Spirit to give warmth and affection in our preaching. It is sin to coldly preach the glory of God and the Gospel. We must think seriously about our associations with others. In many ways we are commanded to come out and be separate (II Cor 6:17). It is only when that happens that He says then “you will be sons and daughters to Me.” We must not be careless about who we are allowing preach and teach. Not only does it matter to the souls of people, but it matters to God what people say about Him. We are commanded to preach the word (II Tim 4:2) and to preach the Gospel (Mark 16:15).

The local church consists of believers, so we must have some standards of membership. While those may not be perfect, if we don’t have solid standards we are allowing non-spiritual people into membership and the church will be filled with unbelievers deciding things for the church. When unbelieving men, though nice and sincere about many things, are allowed into the ministry, it is utterly destructive. Then a false gospel will be preached. We are in a spiritual war. Ministers must wake up and pray for true revival and reformation in the Church. All must pray for these things. We must earnestly seek revival and God’s face for spiritual fervor to correct these things.

Provocation to Prayer, Part 35

April 10, 2010

The following quote is taken from A History of the 1859 Ulster Revival, Volume 1.

“Almost at any hour, or in any place, in the church, or a barn, or in the open air, large meetings could be collected for prayer. A feeling of deep solemnity seemed to pervade the whole community. The engrossing cares of the world appeared for a time to have lost hold of men’s minds. Wherever acquaintances met, whether in the market-place, the shop, the highway, or the private dwelling, the subject of conversation was the revival of religion, and the salvation of the soul. Much of the reserve which usually characterizes the different classes of society toward each other was thrown off. The beggar in rags, or the labourer in his working clothes, might be seen at every public meeting seated beside the well-dressed lady or gentleman. Enter a house for the purpose of administering consolation to some one labouring under convictions, and you would be sure to find there persons from the different grades of society in the neighbourhood… Referring to the town of Ballymena, with which…I am best acquainted-little prayer-meetings were frequently held in the middle of the day, and at the busiest hour of it. More than once have I been attracted, in passing along the street, by the voice of prayer or praise, and on entering the house from which it proceeded-a house in which I had never been before-found a large apartment filled with earnest worshippers, almost all of whom were on their knees, and bathed in tears…In fact, under the melting power of redeeming grace, the whole town seemed to be fused into one common brotherhood in Christ Jesus.”

True revival is when God comes down and dwells with His people in power, glory, and love. The greatest hope that believers have is the hope of glory which is Christ in them (Colossians 1:27). When this Christ dwells in His people and they have the experiential knowledge and understanding of this life of Christ in the soul, the people of His love cannot keep apart from each other and they cannot keep from praying. To behold another believer who has the very life of Christ in him or her is to behold something of the beauty and glory of Christ Himself. These people who behold Christ in each other have the only true love in the universe in them and this love moves them to come together and seek the origin of this love for themselves and others. When God steps out of heaven and down on the earth His people are full of Him and desire more and more of His presence. There is a magnificent power to this kingly grace that dwells in souls and then conquers souls for the King Himself. All the usual things of daily life lose their luster and so don’t have the hold on people that they usually do. In days like this the very power of Christianity is seen and felt by unbelievers by the love that believers have for one another. The greatest evangelistic ministry in revival appears to be when believers are together and others are drawn to them. This should teach us to seek the Lord for revival because the true power and life of revival is the Lord. How hard our hearts must be if we will not seek Him for Himself, the true good of His people, and for the true good of others.

In the fifth lecture of THE REVIVAL OF RELIGION in 1840 Robert S. Candlish supplies the following quote:

“Where a great effect is to be produced, it is satisfactory to discern an adequate cause. Where a great work is to be done, it is most important to have a sufficient instrument. The revival of religion is a great effect, a great work. Is the word of God a sufficient instrument? To ascertain this, consider how that word deals with men who are the subjects of this work; how it grapples with the different parts of their mental and moral constitution-how its doctrine appeals to the reason, the conscience, the will, the heart.”

We live in a day where massive amounts of money and efforts are given to find ways to get people to great events or various things for evangelistic purposes. But if we reflect on this but for a moment, we will see a problem with this. What is sufficient to produce salvation and revival? It is only the whole counsel of God and prayer. Regardless of whether people adhere to inerrancy of what other belief they may or may not have regarding the Scripture, if they do not see it as sufficient in the conversion of souls they don’t have an adequate belief of Scripture. It is the word of God preached that God uses to bring souls into His kingdom. It is prayer that God uses to change hearts. In revival men had no use for anything but prayer and the word. That should instruct us what to do and what not to do now. The instruments God uses are the ones we should focus on.

Provocation to Prayer, Part 34

April 6, 2010

The following quote is taken from A History of the 1859 Ulster Revival, Volume 1.

“It is always difficult, if not impossible, to trace the beginning of a movement of this nature. And perhaps it is well that it should be so, lest man might assume to himself the praise which belongs to God only…In the immediate neighbourhood of Kells is a school-house, where assembled every Friday evening, during the autumn of 1857, four men, comparatively young, who had a ‘Believers’ Fellowship Meeting’, their special object being prayer to God that He would bless their labours in connexion with the prayer-meetings and Sabbath-schools which they had organized. For some time there appeared no answer to their prayers; but, like the patriarch of old, they were determined to wrestle with the Almighty till He would bless them; and at length that God, who is ever the hearer and answerer of the supplications of His people, graciously vouchsafed to make manifest to them the fruits of the labours springing up around….A youth…the first that was brought to the saving knowledge of the grace of God. To him succeeded others, one by one, until they numbered by tens. At length so prosperous did it become, that in a short time in numbered its hundreds.”

There are some important points that should be burned into the souls of all who desire revival. One, it is impossible to trace the absolute beginning of a movement. We do not know the secret works of God and we do not know the secret prayers of others. All the praise of all prayer meetings, all conversions, and all revivals is to His glory alone. Two, prayer does not always seem successful especially in a day as ours. We want numerical or financial success and we want it now. But we must also pray for God to give us grace and determination in order to wrestle with Him until His blessings come down. Three, the hand of God began to work slowly in terms of man’s view. But this does not mean that if we see small beginnings that we are to stop praying. Four, these young men also worked to set up ways to get the Word of God to the people. Prayer and the Word of God must always go together.

In the fifth lecture of THE REVIVAL OF RELIGION in 1840 Robert S. Candlish supplies the following quote:

“Various agencies may be adopted in order to bring the word of God to bear on the souls of those whom it is intended to move. It may be directly taught and enforced, by reading and expounding, by preaching, by conference and meditation, by the catechizing of the young, by pressing it, in short, in every form of persuasion and of warning, on the hearts and consciences of all…Still in every case, if the effect produced is really divine, divine truth must be the immediate cause; and the word is that truth. Now, viewing the word of God, or the truth which it contains, as the great cause or instrument of every work of the Spirit, of every religious revival, it may be proper, I. To observe that it is in itself and instrument fit and adequate for the production of such and effect; and II. To consider how it may be best employed, directly, for that end. And, while we examine as inquirers the nature of this heavenly weapon, and the manner in which it may be most effectually wielded, may the Lord grant, that we may ourselves feel and submit to its power.”

When we combine the first quote (from the Ulster Revival) with this quote, we can see how prayer and the preaching and teaching of the Word of God go together. It is not that we are to pray and pray and do nothing else, but we are to pray and seek to preach and teach the Word of God which is His instrument and immediate cause of every religious revival. It is not that a simply lecture on the Bible is all that is needed, nor is simply some sporadic prayer meetings what is needed. What is needed is for men and women to begin to give themselves to God in prayer and the use of His Holy Scriptures. The Scriptures are to be used as a weapon because they are the sword of the Spirit. The Word of God is living and active and is very powerful to destroy fleshly fortresses. We will not see revival as long as we continue to use and trust in the wisdom of men by using fleshly ways and methods. God has given us the instruments, the methods, and the weapons to wage war in seeking revival. If we truly believe what He has written in the Scriptures, we will pray and we will seek to apply the pure Word of God. In one sense there is nothing else that we are to do. Let us repent of all of our busyness and give ourselves to prayer and the Word. That is precisely what the elders in Jerusalem did in Acts 6. If our entertainment does not become prayer and the Word, we will have nothing left to do but entertain the people with the world. Let us pray, but also let us preach.

Provocation to Prayer, Part 33

March 26, 2010

It has been noted that the preaching during times of revival determines in some measure how solid the revival is. It has also been noted that there is a certain kind of preaching that is used of God to produce revival. While this kind of preaching will not be thought well of in our day, the history of how God has used it should provoke much thinking and praying in us. It should also be noted that it may take years and years of faithful preaching and praying to prepare for revival or for it to come. This is nothing other than seeking the face of God as is found in both Testaments of Scripture. The following quote is taken from A History of the 1859 Ulster Revival, Volume 1.

“It is right it should be known that this movement has not come upon us quite so suddenly as people at a distance might be led to suppose. I am able to testify that there has been a gradual, but perceptible, improvement in the state of religion throughout this district for some years. Ministers were led to speak to the people with greater earnestness about “the things which belong to their peace.” Attendance on the public ordinances of religion had considerably increased. Open-air preaching was extensively practiced. Sabbath-schools were greatly multiplied. Prayer-meetings were growing up in many districts… And altogether the people were in a state of preparation-a state which passed into one of earnest expectancy when the glad news of the American revivals reached our shores.”

This should provoke us to pray and earnestly seek the face of the Lord. Could it be that there is a sign or two here and there of the Lord beginning to spark an interest in true revival? Could it be that this is the cloud the size of a man’s fist that is going to grow into a full storm? While we don’t know for sure, while the professing Church, the culture, and the nation as a whole are going into a sharp dive down, maybe the Lord is raising one here and one there. As the quote above notes, the beginning was gradual. This improvement lasted for years. Let us not despise the day of small things and seek to do God’s work for Him by using out own wisdom and means.

This quote should show us how God works at times. He uses His ministers to preach His Word, but they are not giving dry and formal lectures when He is moving in their souls. Though God uses men of different personalities and differing ways of delivering sermons, earnestness is what must become greater. How can men speak of Divine things without a movement of feeling in their souls? How we must pray for God to give ministers a desire for revival and for Him to give them a greater earnestness in their pulpit labors as well as other things.

2 Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you. Thus began the fifth lecture of THE REVIVAL OF RELIGION in 1840 one of a series of lectures by Scottish evangelical leaders. It was given by Robert S. Candlish and was partly on the character of preaching fitted to produce a revival. The following quote(s) is from his lecture in that volume.

“That word is still the same, and if similar effects are now or at any time to be anticipated, it must be in the same way as of old, by the same word having the same free course. The word of God then is the instrument in every truly religious movement, whether on a large or on a limited scale. It is the truth contained in that word which alone can savingly enlighten and impress either individual minds in slow succession, or an entire congregation or community together. In every work of the Holy Spirit this instrumentality is employed, and the work is genuine and trustworthy only in so far as it is a legitimate effect of this cause.”

While a revival is sent by God, the Spirit works through the words He inspired. Let this teach us to be earnest in prayer concerning the preaching of the Scriptures. God uses the preached word to convert souls and manifest His glory. May ministers pray for God to give them light and earnestness in their study and their preaching. May God’s ministers and God’s people seek fire from heaven in the preaching of His word. May all the people of God pray for the word to run free. Ministers must pray for themselves and other ministers and the people must pray for the preaching of the word. God uses it to bring true revival. Let us not give up, but pray for revival until we die.

Provocation to Prayer, Part 32

March 20, 2010

The following quotes are taken from A History of the 1859 Ulster Revival, Volume 1.

“It is the testimony of sober and respectable men…within the sphere of their observations, that a very great, and a deeply important, change for good is being wrought. A powerful interest is awakened through the entire country here. At the prayer-meetings, no common house, or school-house, is able to contain the multitudes that flock to them; and oftentimes the road side, or the field, is the scene of an intensely earnest service. Nor is there any disposition to weary in these pleasant exercises. Meetings are held almost every night in the week, and many meetings in different localities on the same evenings. The report of the Presbytery…as to the process of conversion…speaks:–The arrow of conviction pierces the conscience, the heart swells night to bursting, a heavy and intolerable burden presses down upon the spirit, and the burdened-burning heart, unable to contain any longer, bursts forth in the piercing cry of distress, saying, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on my sinful soul!” This is alike the experience of the old and the young-of the strong man and the delicate woman. Under such convictions, the heart finds relief in pouring out its cries and tears before the Lord. These convictions are followed by hours of kneeling before the Lord, crying, confessing sin, begging for mercy, and beseeching the Lord to come to the heart. This is done in tones of deepest sincerity, and in utterances of the most impassioned earnestness. It may be days, or weeks, or even months, with convictions returning more or less powerful in the constant exercise of prayer and the reading of the Word, ere a calm and settled peace in believing is enjoyed. There does not appear to be any fanaticism manifested, any heresy broached, any self- righteousness exhibited, or any sectarianism shown. A few interesting cases of the conviction and conversion of Roman Catholics have occurred. It is worthy of note, that, under the light and power of this movement, they love the Bible, pore over its sacred pages, pray through the prevailing name of Jesus alone, place reliance on Christ only for their salvation, and, in the exercise of their civil and religious liberty, join the worship of a purer Church. A reformation almost inconceivable in its extent and minuteness of ramification throughout various classes of society, considering the very brief period within which the work has been accomplished. I visited a particular district…yesterday. I stood in the centre of a thickly populated locality, recently a careless, irreligious, and riotous neighbourhood; and from my own intimate knowledge of its inhabitants, I am prepared to assert that every house in view, within a mile from the spot on which I stood, is now a sanctuary for the worship of God at the family altar. Public prayer-meetings are attended by crowds so large, that no house of worship in the parish can accommodate the entire number.”

From the accounts as given above, it is clear that during revival people are given to prayer. During a revival sent from heaven, those under its power seek the one in heaven who sent it. In our day the prayer meeting is the least attended meeting, yet during revival public prayer is what is important. When the Lord comes down among His people, heavenly things return to their rightful place as first in importance. One obvious sign of spiritual lethargy or judgment in a local church is a lack of prayer. The presence of the Lord moves the heart to pray. From the quotes above it is remarkable to note that people were coming to prayer almost every evening and night. Yet the writer calls these pleasant exercises and notes that the people did not have a disposition to weary.

Evidently those who were brought under deep conviction of sin spent much time seeking the Lord to come to their hearts. Perhaps there is a connection between the fact that those who come under deep conviction of sin spend a lot of earnest time in prayer and so after they are converted they see intense and daily prayer-meetings as normal. Perhaps that is what is normal for those who are seeking the Lord with some degree of fervor. It is such an insight that public prayer-meetings were attended by large crowds in the same places where so much irreligion and riotous behavior once was. Perhaps the real answer to America’s problems is God. Maybe broken hearts that join together to look to God is the real answer. Maybe the real problem in our nation and professing Church is not a lack of methods. Maybe it is simply a lack of the presence of God. We must earnestly seek His face in times like. How can we not see that if we will not pray the spirit of prayer will not be given? What is more important than this?

Provocation to Prayer, Part 31

March 14, 2010

The following quotes are taken from A History of the 1859 Ulster Revival, Volume 1.

The moment in this immediate neighborhood has assumed the startling character of unexpected and instantaneous ‘conversions,’ accompanied by the physical and spiritual operations of some overwhelming power upon the minds and bodies of the parties so converted…A spirit of genuine religion appeared to have fallen upon many of the people; and the work was regarded as the power of godliness upon the human heart. Men of irregular habits became suddenly and permanently changed; institutions for prayer were established throughout the parish, and very numerously attended; drunkards became peaceable, sober, and religious members of society; houses, once the habitations of wickedness, became sanctuaries of praise, and roofs that formerly echoed with sounds of obscenity, now cover altars of family worship, and resound with the anthems of the royal psalmist….

The word of ‘conversion,’ as it is called, here assumed the form of a supernatural intervention and miraculous agency. Men were suddenly ‘struck’ with an overwhelming and terrifying conviction of their sin and danger, and directly thrown into a state of intense bodily excitement, and mental phrenzy -in short, they became, as it were, ‘possessed.’ In this state the whole frame is shaken by some species of uncontrollable convulsion; every muscle quivers, and the entire nervous system is completely deranged. The party so affected feels impelled to by some irresistible influence to pray-and does pray, loudly, unceasingly, and with desperate earnestness-for pardon of sin and acceptance by the mercy of God through Jesus Christ. In this extraordinary agitation of mind and body, the penitent continues to struggle for an indefinite period-generally less than two days; and finally becomes impressed with a gladdening sense of peace and grace, quite as suddenly as he had previously been impressed with fear.

In revival things are different. This is to be expected in many ways, though when revival comes to a church the intensity and power of the presence of God takes prayer and worship to a different level. One pastor spoke of the Spirit coming to a group of people in a room praying while he was not present. When he went to the room and saw the people acting strangely, he rebuked them. But then the Spirit came while he was there and He saw that God changes things. When a soul is being worked on by the living God that there are bodily reactions and things don’t always go according to the rules manners of men. The presence of God shakes things up and changes things. We have biblical testimony to the fact that the soul must be strengthened by the Spirit so that Christ may dwell in it (Ephesians 3:16-17). Christ cannot dwell in a soul unless it is strengthened by supernatural power.

When this power comes upon a soul the body will display certain behaviors that are not in accordance with good manners and civil religion. But in true revival the overwhelming power of God is what comes upon the souls of human beings. Scripture tells us of all kinds of reactions to the presence of God as well. We have people falling on their faces as if dead. The sense of the holy brings sensations to the soul and body that leaves the body without strength. Daniel lay before an angel as if dead. In the book of Revelation we have John falling as if dead. When Jesus stilled the storm the disciples were even more afraid of Him than they were of the storm. Isaiah (ch 6) was in agony when he saw the Lord in the glory of His holiness. A holy God is terrifying to unholy souls.

When human beings come into the presence of holiness they see their sin and they cry out to God for forgiveness of sin and their prayers are real and are from souls with an inner fire. The desire to pray is irresistible because the inner fire is burning with a conviction of sin brought on by the Holy Spirit or by a joy so deep the body cannot handle it. A soul in the presence of a holy God must pray and it will pray. Souls in the presence of the fire of God don’t act the same way they do as when they are cold and hard. In revival prayer flows from souls with an intensity because they have an intense awareness of God. In revival the very entertainment of people is prayer. In times of coldness it is hard to pray and prayer meetings are sparsely attended. Do our churches desperately need hundreds of visitors? What we really need is for the Lord to give us hearts to pray so He will visit our churches. Revive us oh Lord!

Provocation to Prayer, Part 30

March 7, 2010

In praying for revival each person that prays has some idea of God that drives him or her and some reason for wanting revival to occur. The question, however, is whether our idea of God is correct and whether our desire for revival accurately reflects the nature of God. If we think of God as essentially mean, sour, and severe then we think He would be reluctant to send revival. That is a different idea of God than One who lives in perfect pleasure within the Trinity and loves to see His glory manifested. That would bring the issue back to our own hearts. Perhaps human beings have to be conformed to His image for Him to send revival through us. Perhaps revival is not something that God is reluctant to send, but perhaps we are not like Him “enough” for Him to work His true glory through.

Isaiah 66:4 tells us that it is sin to choose that which God does not delight in: “So I will choose their punishments And will bring on them what they dread. Because I called, but no one answered; I spoke, but they did not listen. And they did evil in My sight And chose that in which I did not delight.” On the other hand, Psalm 37:4 commands us to “Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.” We are commanded here and in many places to rejoice in Him and delight ourselves in Him. Are we to rejoice in a God who has no capacity for rejoicing in Himself? Can we really delight ourselves in God if He is morose and sullen Himself?

We must come to understand that God is a God that does as He pleases (Psa 115:3). In the context of the text this is what it means to be God. Not only does He do all that He wants, but He does all He is pleased to do. If God does all He is pleased to do, then He is pleased with all that He does. He tells us that part of His glory is to be gracious to whom He will be gracious (Exodus 33:18-4:7). He shows grace and saves sinners to the good pleasure of His will to the praise of the glory of His grace (Eph 1:5-14). God will send revival when it is His pleasure to do so. While the Lord hides behind frowning providences at times, our faith must learn to pierce the dark clouds and rest in the God who does all for His own pleasure. Scripture tells us that God has delight and pleasure in His Beloved Son (Mat 3:17), that the Son is the tabernacle of His glory (John 1:14), and is the shining forth of His glory (Heb 1:3). It is the very pleasure of God to shine forth His glory in Christ Jesus because He loves the Son who is the shining forth of His glory. Therefore, God will not be pleased to send revival until His people learn to seek Him for the emptiness of self needed to preach Christ crucified rather than themselves. He will not send a revival of His pleasure and glory until His people are humbled so that Christ will shine forth in them. That is His work of pleasure in them.

Until souls are praying with a true desire for His glory in the face of Christ (II Cor 4:4-6) they will not be praying out of love for the Gospel. Until souls love God enough that they want Him to be pleased and for His pleasure to be done, they will not be praying for revival with a heart that has the same reason that God will send revival. When we pray for revival we are to pray for what is the pleasure of God. It is not that God hates revival and it is not that He is neutral about the things we pray for. Rather than that, it is His pleasure to shine forth His glory in Jesus Christ and it is His pleasure to save souls to the praise of the glory of His grace.

We are told that whatever we do we are to do to the glory of God (I Cor 10:31) which is to say that we are to live to the pleasure of God. Instead of finding pleasure in the world, we are to find pleasure in His pleasure. This means we should seek revival simply because we seek His pleasure in Christ. We are to deny the sinful self in order to seek the pleasure of God which should be the pleasure of our spiritual self. If our spiritual self is what receives all from Him and is like Him, then we should have our greatest delight in spiritual things. Revival is God shining forth His glory in Christ and so spiritual things become the true delights of His people. Prayer is no longer a burden but a delight because it is a joy to seek those things which please the Father. Longer prayer becomes more joy. Colossians 1:19 tells us that it was “the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him.” Galatians 2:20 says Christ is our life. Psalm 149:4 tells us that “the LORD takes pleasure in His people.” Philippians 2:13 says that “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” When God begins to work in His people to truly pray and seek revival, His good pleasure is working in them. When God shines out and manifests His glory in Christ to the delight and pleasure of His people, revival will be close if not here. Let us pray to hasten that day.

Provocation to Prayer, Part 29

February 26, 2010

Psalm 25:11 For Your name’s sake, O LORD, Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.

Psalm 79:9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; And deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake.

Psalm 106:8 Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name, That He might make His power known.

Psalm 143:11 For the sake of Your name, O LORD, revive me. In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble.

Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.

Isaiah 48:9 “For the sake of My name I delay My wrath, And for My praise I restrain it for you, In order not to cut you off. 11 “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned?

Ezekiel 20:9 “But I acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made Myself known to them by bringing them out of the land of Egypt.

Ezekiel 36:22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went.

Eph 1:5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

1 John 2:12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.

The above verses could be multiplied many times over. But in the verses given, we see another way of praying for the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer. We are to pray first and foremost for His name to be hallowed, exalted, revered, and glorified. Instead we pray for the things our wicked hearts desire or what we have been taught we should pray for. Our hearts long for what they love and we pray for what we love the most. When we pray for ourselves and our less than spiritual desires, though we may put a spiritual twist on them, we show that we love ourselves. If our hearts were truly taken with God and His glory first we would pray for His glory first.

What we can see from the verses above and point out in a short amount of space is that God always acts for the sake of His own name. We can also see what the hearts of saints longed for and loved the most. Perhaps we never thought of it this way before, but we are to love God and His glory so much that we should desire for our sins to be forgiven in order that His name would be glorified. How our hearts must learn to pant for and desire that His name would be exalted in the earth. We love little so we pray like this but a little.

The verses above teach us how to pray. We should pray for God to restrain His wrath upon us for His name’s sake. We should pray for revival so that His glory would shine forth. We should pray that He would save sinners so that the beauty of His grace would shine forth. We should pray for hearts that would love Him and His glory so much that our hearts, desires, and prayers are focused on Him and His own name. The verses above also serve as a mirror to show us our hearts. Do we desire revival in order that His glory would be seen? Do we desire revival so that His name would be honored? What else would God send revival for? We need to pray for hearts that would be taught by the Spirit to long for and love Him enough that His glory and honor is what our hearts really desire and pray for. When He gives us hearts that plead with Him in truth and love for His name’s sake, revival is close.

Provocation to Prayer, Part 28

February 21, 2010

The following two paragraphs are quotes from The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit by James Buchanan.

That such seasons of general religious revival s occurred at the feast of Pentecost were to be expected in subsequent times appears from those promises of Scripture which relate to ‘times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord,’ which ensure the continued presence of Christ and his Spirit with the Church in all ages, and which declare that ‘when the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.’ And that such seasons of revival have occurred at intervals along the whole line of the Church’s history is a fact which is amply confirmed by historical evidence, and sufficient to obviate any prejudice arising from the idea that such an event is novel or unprecedented… The history of the collected Church resembles the experience of individual believers in many respects, and chiefly in this, that in both there occur seasons of growth and decay, of progress and declension, each bearing a resemblance to the course of nature with its spring and winter, in seedtime and harvest.

Thus is the Reformation of the sixteenth century, a reformation in the outward state of the Church, which had its source and spring in the hearts of a few chosen men, when simultaneously in Germany, and Switzerland, and Britain, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Let there be light; and there was light.’ ‘As in spring time the breath of life is felt from the sea-shore to the mountain-top, so the Spirit of God was now melting the ice of a long winter in every part of Christendom, and clothing with verdure and flowers the most secluded valleys, and the most steep and barren rocks, Germany did not communicate the light of truth to Switzerland, Switzerland to France, France to England-all these lands received it from God, just as no one region transmits the light to another, but the same orb of splendour dispenses it direct to the earth. Raised far above men, Christ, the day-star from on high, was at the period of the Reformation as at the first introduction of the Gospel, the divine source whence came the light of the world. One and the same doctrine suddenly established itself in the sixteenth century at the domestic hearths and in the places of worship at nations the most distant and dissimilar. It was because the same Spirit was everywhere present, producing the same faith.’ A series of local revivals, on a more partial and limited scale, have occurred since the great general revival at the era of the Reformation.

The Reformation was not just a time of a dispute with Roman Catholicism which led to the Protestant view of the Church; it was a time of great revival that God raised up. While indeed Martin Luther was a human agent and perhaps the main human vessel, this was the work of the Holy Spirit. The Reformation was a time when the sovereign God raised up a few men and worked a mighty revival. Luther spent hours (3-4) each day in prayer. He is quoted as saying one day that he had so much to do that he would have to pray an extra hour. He was overheard praying and it was said that he prayed like God was in the room with him. Luther recognized that God must move if man’s work was to have any benefit at all. He recognized that in the busiest of times what is needed is not less prayer, but more. He was a man of great action, but his action started on his knees. The Reformation, while indeed a time of doctrinal reform, was also a time of revival where true prayer was rescued from forms and traditions.

If we are to see revival today, it will take far more than a recovery of the writings of men and of the doctrine of the Reformers. Our intellects can hold to their doctrines while we savor the old books and yet we might be devoid of the Spirit. Those men tasted and gloried in God and not just in the doctrines of the intellect. Indeed they had the doctrines, but God opened their minds to His glory in the Gospel and the light shone through the darkness once again. But this was a time when men prayed and when the Spirit moved. For several years we have once again had access to the writings of the giants of old. For years we have had people speak and write on prayer, but we have not had revival because the Spirit has not been given and we have not been given to prayer. We prefer to attend conferences where we are given a lot of food and a lot of things for the brain. But we have not been given over to prayer to seek the face of God to pour out His Spirit. Until we do, we will not see revival and the Reformation will be but a system of doctrine to us. Doctrine is important, and even vital, but God Himself is light and life. The doctrines of the Reformation teach us of our sovereign God and that should drive us to true and extended prayer.

Provocation to Prayer, Part 27

February 20, 2010

The following quotes are from The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit by James Buchanan.

We have been so much accustomed to look to the more slow and quiet and gradual method of maintaining and extending the kingdom of Christ, that we are apt to be startled, and even listen with some degree of incredulous surprise, when we hear of any sudden and general work of the Spirit of God; nay, we cease even to expect and to pray for any more remarkable or more rapid change in the state of the Church and world than what is usually observed under a regular ministry….Often, in the history of his Church, has he been pleased…to manifest his grace and power in a very extraordinary and remarkable manner; partly to awaken and arouse a slumbering Church; partly also to alarm and convince gainsayers; and, most of all, to teach them at once the sovereignty and the power of that grace which they are too prone to despise.

Could you then doubt that the preaching of the Gospel, accompanied by the power of the Spirit, is sufficient to revolutionize the world, to overturn the kingdom of darkness, and to erect on its ruins that kingdom of God which consists in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost? While such was the experience of the Church of God, both under the Old and the New Testament dispensations [periods of time], it remains to inquire how far we are entitled to expect the same, or similar results, from the preaching of the Gospel in modern times. It might seem that, being far removed from the age of miracles, and being left, in so far as the use of means is concerned, to depend on the mere preaching of the Word, it would be unreasonable, if not presumptuous, in us to anticipate any such remarkable success as attended the preaching of the apostles on the day of Pentecost. Yet there are some weighty considerations applicable to this question which may serve to abate the supposed improbability of such an expectation…’Ask of me,’ says the Father to his beloved Son, ‘and I will give thee the heathen for thine heritage, and the uttermost part of they earth for they possession.’ ‘In thee, and in thy seed,’ said he to Abraham, ‘shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’

The continued agency of the Spirit of God in the Church…is a doctrine which teaches us to expect great results from the faithful preaching of the Gospel…Take away the grace of the Holy Spirit, expunge those passages in the Bible which contain the promise of his enlightening, renewing and converting grace, and then you leave us with none but natural means to accomplish a supernatural work; you leave us, by our mere persuasion and importunity, to convert enmity into love, to quicken the dead to life, to raise a fallen world to heaven, then, indeed, our hopes were deluded, our expectations visionary. Our aims abortive; but leave with us the promise which God has given; grant that the Gospel is an instrument in his hands, and that the Holy Spirit is the every living and ever activeTeacher and Sanctifier of souls, then, in the strength of this truth, we can face all difficulties and rise above all discouragement; and stand unmoved amidst the mockery of the world; and preach the Gospel with confidence of ultimate success, both to Greek and barbarian, to savage and to civilized men; for the Gospel is adapted to every human heart, and the Spirit of God has power to make it effectual…Can it be doubted by any professing Christian, either that such a revival is possible, or that it is desirable?…And is not our privilege to expect, that for these things our prayers will be heard and answered?

The revival we are to expect and seek in prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit in awakening and converting souls. We are not just to do our duty in doing these, though we are to do that, but we should have an expectation that the living God will do as He has promised. While we do not know for sure the extent of what He will do in our day, we can know that our labors are not in vain. We may see revival today or tomorrow, or God may be using us to prepare the next generation for true revival. Either way, it will happen as it cannot fail to happen. The earth will be full of the glory of the Lord because the Lord has promised. We should give ourselves to prayer and preaching that is accordance with the power and the sovereignty of the grace of God. Let us not give up on God, but simply on our own wisdom and power. The Spirit of God is able to send true revival. Let us seek Him by believing prayer.